Monthly Archives: December 2012

2012 in review – Reeling in Films

As each year rolls to a close, I find myself desperately Googling lists of films which opened in the year in an effort to determine what I actually saw at the cinema.  You may encounter a similar situation – did I really enjoy that movie this year or did it come three years ago and I’ve only just caught up with it?

That said, I’m pretty sure that I can post a solid top five movies of the year – all of which are mostly perfectly defensible.  Ahem…

1) Brave

Women with bows and/or arrows - you couldn't avoid them in 2012 pop culture

Women with bows and/or arrows – you couldn’t avoid them in 2012 pop culture

I hated “Cars” so much that I purposefully avoided “Cars 2” when it opened last year.  I know people who loved both movies, but I’m firmly of the belief that I’ll only see it when it ends up free to watch on TV.  I’m happy to say that “Brave” reaffirmed my belief in Pixar’s storytelling abilities and seemed, at times, made for me.

Set in Scotland? Check.  Strong-willed heroine with character layers and imperfections?  Check.  Knockabout comedy and thrilling action sequences?  Oh yes.   Amazing voice cast? Emma Thompson, Kelly McDonald, Billy ConnollyCraig FergusonRobbie ColtraneJulie Walters – check-a-mundo.

And how bold of Pixar to essentially pull the rug from underneath you in the cinema and deliver a film which is quite different from the one advertised – there’s plentiful adventure to behold in this film but also a really interesting meditation on family and obligation which the trailers didn’t exactly shy away from but certainly managed to undersell.

My favourite Pixar movie is “Ratatouille” but this glorious adventure runs it a close second – if you didn’t get to see it in cinemas, I heartily recommend picking it up and wallowing in master storytellers weaving a brilliant yarn.  I’ve not loved an animated feature as much since “How To Train Your Dragon”, which is high praise indeed.

"Fanboys?  Let them eat Mjolnir!"

“Fanboys? Let them eat Mjolnir!”

2) “Avengers Assemble”

Joss Whedon – the vindication!  You may have seen this film once or twice.  I saw it three times theatrically, a couple of times since on Blu-Ray (full disclosure – I own two copies of it, as the UK release ditched various features and a Whedon commentary track).  The culmination of the first phase of Marvel’s Movie Take-Over didn’t disappoint, pitting the cast of bickering heroes against a galactic scale threat and finding a way, finally, to bring the Hulk to thrilling life via Mark Ruffalo and some absurdly brilliant CG wizardry.

Whedon’s voice remained undimmed by the demands of the multiple characters – much to the chagrin of his vocal detractors – and he managed to miraculously balance the demands of mythology, actor screen time, the expected summer movie explosions-per-second ratio and his own fan base to deliver a superhero smack down for the ages.  If you ever read comics as a kid, this movie was pitched directly at you and realised in vivid detail those action figure battles you sketched out at eight years old in the school playground.

Plus, you know, Shawarma.

Genre cannon fodder, meet your puppeteers...

Genre cannon fodder, meet your puppeteers…

3) “Cabin In The Woods”

It really is better if you know as little as possible about this film before you see it, such is its puppyish determination to take what you know and love about horror cinema and then twist it, delivering a glorious, genre-warping ride which celebrates the scare-flick even as it places some of its more objectionable stylistic tropes under an exacting microscope.

Best ending of the year?  Quite possibly.

4) “The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists”

More jokes per minute than any movie this year and most of them are brilliant...

More jokes per minute than any movie this year and most of them are brilliant…

The latest from Aardman Animation arrived in cinemas in the spring and departed with indecent haste, which says to me that a great many people didn’t get to enjoy this joke-stuffed, superbly inventive pirate adventure and that’s a great shame.  This is a hilarious movie, with fantastic performances from Hugh Grant, Martin Freeman and David Tennant, staggering levels of detail crammed into each gorgeous frame of this stop motion work of art and a really infectious sense of off-kilter humour – it is, in essence, a Monty Python movie for kids and if that doesn’t recommend it to you, I really don’t think that there’s any hope for you.

=5) “The Woman In Black”

What Harry Did Next

What Harry Did Next

A genuine breath of swampy, slightly decaying air, “The Woman In Black” capitalizes royally on our fear of creaking furniture in quiet old houses, of unexplainable noises late at night, of the thing that you glimpse for a second from the corner of your eye and delivers a bone-chilling, restrained journey into terror which eschews gore for melancholy, substitutes atmosphere for flashy jump scares and shows the idiots cranking out PG-13, pseudo ‘found footage’ schlock just how to genuinely unsettle an audience.

Daniel Radcliffe is superb in the lead as haunted young lawyer Arthur Kipps, wrestling bravely with events that he can never hope to understand and confirming that his will be a long and storied career if he continues to make smart choices like appearing in this film.  He’s already an audience identification figure for a generation of movie-goers and this film trades on that, using his iconic, essentially decent countenance to draw us into a Victorian milieu which is swiftly and convincingly drawn as a stultifying and closed-off nightmare – Kipps’ job-stipulated stay in a possibly haunted, rickety old mansion seems positively inviting by comparison.

More scares per minute than any other film in 2012?  I should say so.

=5) “Resident Evil: Retribution”

Evil goes virtual, more like...

Not so much a film as cinematic DLC. Yep, a bit of a tough sell…

Suck it haters!

 

In dispatches, I should also mention the likes of James Bond adventure, “Skyfall”, Christopher Nolan‘s audience dividing but audacious trilogy-capper, “The Dark Knight Rises“, Peter Jackson’s little movie that could, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey“, genius bare knuckle, sci-fi adaptation, “Dredd”, gleefully daffy TV remake “21 Jump Street”, putative epic sci-fantasy adventure “John Carter”, vamps versus werewolves franchise entry “Underworld: Awakening“, Ridley Scott‘s return to the “Alien” universe in “Prometheus”, addled fantasy revisionism “Snow White and the Huntsman“, mumble-core superhero fable, “Chronicle”  and Sony’s promising, web-slinging reboot, “The Amazing Spider-Man”.

And 2013 brings us a new “Star Trek”, “Elysium”, “Oblivion”, “Riddick”, “Iron Man 3”, “After Earth”, “Pacific Rim”, “Ender’s Game”, “Thor: The Dark World” and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” from merely the Sci-Fi and Fantasy film spheres – there’s a huge movie at the multiplex seemingly every month and I’d guess that I’ll get to see a mere fraction of those titles at the movies next year.

Which is kind of where we came in, isn’t it?

Related articles

3 Comments

Filed under Films, Geekery

2012 in review – Games? We got games…

To some, an epic battle of beast versus noble knight. To me? Monday morning.

Gamers have lived in interesting times in 2012.  From Doritosgate  to a new console from Nintendo, from Kickstarter letting star developers of yore crowd-source funds for niche titles to the NRA blaming pop culture (and, inevitably, video games) for inspiring real-life violence, to studios like Sony Liverpool and even publishers like THQ either closing down permanently or entering Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to that “Mass Effect 3” ending, there’s been no shortage of stories on the daily games blogs to make you say “…hmm”.

Perhaps this weird sense of flux is partially attributable to the waning days of this gaming generation? With the debut of a hand-held  iterative system like the PS Vita and the aforementioned Wii U heralding the onset of a new generation of home systems, it’s probably not unusual to expect some consolidation in gaming – especially with the competition from smart phones being an ongoing agitant and conspiring to win yet more eyeballs and minds from the traditional gaming monoliths of Sony and Nintendo (next to whom, implausibly, Microsoft are the peppy young upstart of the sector).  If you’re not fast enough to keep up, and can’t get attention quickly, your game’s in the bargain bins two weeks after release and your studio will doubtless be downsizing headcount left, right and centre.  Who would want to be a games dev?  Not me, that’s for sure.

It would be easy to get downhearted, but there’s always reasons to get excited about this hobby – titles which engage so much that they persuade an otherwise sane gamer to invest 51 hours of his life (and counting) into a fantasy universe without really denting the main quest line – if you’ve read this blog at all this year, you’ll be in no surprise when I tell you that “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” was my favourite game of 2012.

It’s not one which has featured much in the year-end discussion – that honour goes to the likes of Tell Tale’s “The Walking Dead”, ThatGameCompany‘s art-em-up, “Journey”, steampunk stealth fest, “Dishonored” and the revived “Halo 4” – but it’s the game which pulled me back in, hour after hour, level after level to discover the secret provenance and reason for my seven foot blue elven ranged scout’s mysterious resurrection from death.

"Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning" is my game of 2012

“Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” is my game of 2012

Lots of action, deep lore (with a story by R.A. Salvatore), charming music, a neat inventory system and an indefinable x-factor which compels you to keep forging ahead even with the likes of “ME3”, “Halo 4” and every thing that XBLA/PSN/Steam could offer calling you away – that’s what my game of 2012 offered.  “Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning” is the overlooked gem of 2012 and the title which I hope somehow sees a renaissance worthy of it’s central plot line on the soon-to-be-unveiled next gen systems from Microsoft and Sony.

2 Comments

Filed under Gaming, Geekery

Master of Puppets

Image

Well, this is certainly news that I didn’t want to read today – Gerry Anderson, tv Sci-Fi pioneer and beloved icon of British nerds, has passed away at the age of 83.

I’m not sure how much Anderson’s career resonates with American readers, but to British nerds of a certain age Anderson’s marionette-powered sci-fi action adventures were a regular and welcome injection of derring-do and thrilling storytelling on kids’ tv before the era of on-demand tv and internet made finding such gems somewhat easier.

Captain Scarlet

If I throw out some titles – “Thunderbirds”, “Captain Scarlet“, “Stingray“, “Space: 1999“, “UFO“, my personal favourite “Terrahawks” – you might get an idea of what I’m talking about.  Yep, mostly marionette-driven, mostly irony-free adventures which seemed like they came from a different time even when I was watching them as a kid.  But they were arguably key in getting me into the kind of sci-fi adventures that I grew to love – this was a time when you couldn’t see Star Wars whenever you wanted (VHS wasn’t yet remotely affordable), and any TV show which took you into space, under the sea or into uncertain alien territory was like delicious catnip to a youthful Fluffrick.

I suspect that most younger readers might have only encountered “Thunderbirds” through the enjoyable but not entirely successful live action Jonathan Frakes film from 2004, which at least managed to keep the best things about the show – the epic-in-scale, perilous rescue missions, largely eschewing violence as a solution to problems, even going so far as to find actors to play the Tracy brothers who were somehow less convincing than their marionette counterparts – and boasted one genius performance from Sophia Myles as Lady Penelope.

Anderson died peacefully at noon today – he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease since 2010.  And his brand of energetic, breathless storytelling will be deeply missed.

2 Comments

Filed under Geekery, TV

Season’s Greetings

Image

I hope that you’re enjoying your holiday season – whichever form it may take.

Our own not-Christmas celebration has been slightly postponed to the happy arrival of a new niece (it’s a long story which I won’t bother you with), so the traditional December 25th meal is probably going to happen for us nearer to the New Year than normal.

Enjoy your holiday – and the company of those you love. Even if they are grumpy cats.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Blogs

A Fistful of Princesses?

 

Image

 

This shall not stand!

The Gameological Society – go there, read upon their assessment of games, become informed – have summed up one of the year’s defining news stories with a sweet flash game which allows you to make your own “Star Wars” Episode 7 film.

Despite the nerd-o-riffic dream team of Jane Espenson writing, Joss Whedon directing and Nathan Fillion starring, the above screen grab indicates precisely how successful that particularly geeky brains trust would be in rendering a new adventure set in a galaxy far, far away.

Tis a fix, I tells you – a fix!

Leave a comment

Filed under Films, Gaming, Geekery

“Doctor Who” – Snowy Spoilers?

If you want to witness the new Tardis interior for yourself, without resorting to vaguely spoilerific images released by the BBC, you definitely shouldn’t click on this link to the SFX story on said topic.

There’s only five days to go, after all, and we’re largely patient adults more than capable of not spoiling our seasonal surprises, are we not?

Oh, Jingle Bells to it!

“The Doctor and Clara/Sitting in a tree…”

Have a look at the Doctor (Matt Smith) and new companion/Dalek hybrid/pan-dimensional woman of mystery Clara (Jenna Louise Coleman) giving it major lip-lockage in the name of audience-baiting, out-of-continuity shenanigans for a turkey-stuffed festive audience.

See you on Christmas Day, Doctor, terrifying snowmen and all…

2 Comments

12/19/2012 · 5:34 pm

New “Riddick” film for September 2013

Image

When did David Twohy morph into Billy Bob Thornton? Did I miss a meeting?

Which is to say, the eagerly awaited (by nerds like me) new “Riddick” movie opens in the US on the 6th of September 2013 – it’s got a release date, IMAX makeover and everything!  Huzzah for monosyllabic, goggle-wearing anti-heroic bad-asses!

It’s a smart move as this date positions it in the early autumn genre slot which has been kind in recent years to the likes of the “Resident Evil” series and gets it out-of-the-way of the last of Summer’s heavy hitters – for example, the Matt Damon starring, Neill Blomkamp directed sci-fi actioner, “Elysium“, which opens in early August next year.

And, by that time, we’ll have had another slice of absurd automotive carnage with the latest entry in his other action franchise, “Fast Six” , having opened earlier in the spring, thus ensuring that Mr Diesel’s star has never been more in the ascendant.  Or so his people must be hoping – nobody wants to see more kiddie-skewing family comedies in his future, surely?  Let this man make an epic, geeky fantasy movie with a “D & D” flavour – there’s bound to be at least 5, maybe 6 other people on the planet who’d pay to see that, surely?

Trailer, please?

3 Comments

Filed under Films, Geekery